3 NBA FanDuel Studs to Target on Thursday 3/2/23

Basketball is the most consistent sport for daily fantasy purposes.

A top slugger in baseball will have his fair share of 0-for-4 days, and an elite fantasy football player is at risk of having games where his team's offense is shut down.

A high-salaried NBA stud is generally going to get his, though. With so many possessions in a game providing opportunities to produce, top fantasy basketball options will post high scores just about every night.

While this consistency puts us in an excellent position to identify top plays, it also means you can't afford to miss when you're paying up for someone. Even with strong value plays in your lineup, paying up and getting a dud will likely leave your lineup drawing pretty close to dead.

Which top players should be the focal points of your lineups today?

Joel Embiid, C, 76ers ($11,800)

The key to today's four-game slate is deciding which game will be the best one to roster correlated stars. Indiana-San Antonio is the best environment, but it's got no star power if Tyrese Haliburton ends up sitting with a calf issue.

I'd pick the game in Dallas. The Mavericks have been a shootout machine with a 121.2 offensive rating and 117.6 defensive rating since acquiring Kyrie Irving back in February. Philadelphia is a worthy adversary with multiple stars and a 115.6 offensive rating this season (eighth-best in the NBA).

Joel Embiid should return for the Sixers tonight. He missed last night's game with the same left foot issue he's dealt with all season, so it was likely a maintenance day. He should absolutely feast on a Dallas squad that allowed the most paint points per game (59.5) in the NBA in February.

This game has a 228.0-point total despite featuring two bottom-six teams in pace. Oddsmakers are expecting these teams to both score the basketball efficiently, which should come from the bevy of All-Stars involved.

Kawhi Leonard, SF, Clippers ($10,000)

The other game you can choose, in my opinion, is the Clippers-Warriors bout. Raptors-Wizards features too many returning or emerging players to target the current studs.

Like the Mavs, the Clippers underwent a transformation this month after acquiring Russell Westbrook. Their 116.8 offensive rating in February was better than their season-long mark (113.0), but their 117.2 defensive rating was also much worse than the season-long mark (113.0).

As a result, Kawhi Leonard has scored at least 23 points in three straight with Russ. Importantly, though, "Mr. Load Management" has eclipsed 38 minutes in those games, which is a massive lift for a guy averaging 44.2 FanDuel points per 36 as is.

The floor of Leonard and Paul George is a lot lower with the two -- and Westbrook -- now sharing just one ball. They wouldn't be viable on a full slate. However, they've shown upside with Westbrook already, and Golden State is allowing the 10th-most FanDuel points per game to small forwards in their last 30 contests.

There's a reason I prefer the game in Dallas, but Leonard, George, and Klay Thompson are another optimal path worth considering should the Pacers' value options burst onto the slate.

Kyrie Irving, PG/SG, Mavericks ($9,600)

Dallas has a bit of those same concerns as Los Angeles.

At $12,000, Luka Doncic has only eclipsed 60 FanDuel points twice since the Mavs acquired Kyrie Irving. At $9,600 himself, Irving has only passed 50 FanDuel points three times. The floor for both is much lower together, evidenced by Irving failing to reach 43 FanDuel points in consecutive contests leading up to his one.

I still think he's viable here.

If Philadelphia's sturdy defense has struggled anywhere, it's been with off-ball scoring guards. They've ceded the eighth-most FanDuel points per game to shooting guards in their last 30 contests. That's Irving's exact role in Dallas.

Importantly, Doncic and Embiid are tough to squeeze together in one lineup. JoJo is the key priority above all, so I'd rather pair him with Irving than Doncic with James Harden in a similarly-salaried game stack.

Small choices like that should decide quite a bit on this slate with minimal value.